I held my annual existential garage sale last Saturday. It was scheduled – rain or shine, with a set of core values or without – from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., although who can really know the nature of time as an abstract in a physical world? Certainly not those early birds who showed up at 7 o’clock looking for cheap fundamental truths and free will.
And I specifically said in the ad: “No rational egoists!”
Anyway, I always look forward to this sale to clear out a lot of outdated household goods and personal belief systems. I could just throw them in the trash, I suppose, but it feels much better to say goodbye to, for instance, youthful ambition if I can convince someone to give me three bucks for it.
And wicker. All that wicker. I don’t know how we ended up with so much wicker. So many baskets and wicker trays. Were they wedding gifts? Did our guests think, “No, candle holders are too impersonal. Let’s give them these wicker plate holders instead.”
So we had wicker out there on our table. And candle holders, of course. Children’s toys, rotary telephone, VHS videos, sexual desirability, all kinds of obsolete stuff. There’s always that pre-sale conundrum: do I get rid of it or not? Am I going to want it again? For example, I decided to hang onto my dignity for a little while longer. Ditto my vintage Star Wars action figures.
People are funny when it comes to existential garage sales. They’ll see the balloons and bust of Plato tied to the mailbox at the end of my driveway, and they’ll drive up the street. But they won’t get out of their cars. Instead, they’ll do the slow drive-by and just peer into my soul. I want to say, “Don’t be shy. I’m practically giving away quasi-socialist idealism, hardly used. And, look, a George Foreman Grill.”
Then there are the hagglers. But why? It’s a garage sale. Like trying to get through the day without dissolving in self-pitying tears, I’m not asking for much. For instance, a customer will come up to me with something cheap, like my sense of humour, and he’ll still want to cut the price in half. What a joke! So what if it was a little dirty…
Saturday, this guy said to me, “I’ll give you two dollars for your tolerance.” “GET THE HELL OUT OF MY YARD!” I shouted.
“Will you take 50 cents for this sense of apathy?” another guy asked me. “Whatever…” I said.
“How much do you want for your physical strength and vigour?” asked a woman. “I’m flexible,” I replied.
Someone asked me, “Do you have any doubts and anxieties?” “I do,” I said, “but I can’t get rid of them.”
A few people liked to barter with me. One guy said he would take a set of steak knives off my hands in exchange for offering me a sense of wisdom. “Hmmm, let me think about it,” I said, but he wandered off before I could close the deal, which just goes to show that he who hesitates is… uhh… a big old hesitater.
At the end of the day, I had managed to pass on a lot of my existential clutter. What didn’t sell I had to pack up and bring back inside, which was fine, mostly. For example, I’m glad I didn’t sell my emotional empathy because it turns out it still had a lot of sentimental value.
The only problem with holding an existential garage sale is that it tied me down for the day, which meant I couldn’t check out other people’s existential garage sales. And I could use a few things. Specifically, I’m searching for some inner peace. And a panini press.
A version of this piece originally aired on CBC Radio’s “Breakaway.”